The French Ministry of Health is opening negotiations for reforms after the investment promised by President Macron at the start of the pandemic.
The French Ministry of Health is expected to open negotiations with health workers today on planned hospital and nursing home reforms. However, some health workers are already skeptical that the reforms will match the “massive” investment promised by President Emmanuel Macron.
French Minister of Health Olivier Véran has set high expectations for his first meeting with medical staff on the future of the French health system.
“We will go fast, we will go strong,” he said on Wednesday when he outlined his reform plans. The coronavirus health crisis revealed the weaknesses of the French health system, which saw its capacities reduced and the workload of the personnel increased.
At the end of March, French President Emmanuel Macron promised a new “massive” investment plan for public hospitals, with the aim of improving staff salaries and working conditions as well as patient capacity.
In preparation for today’s meeting, the government has chosen Nicole Notat, a former leader of the moderate CFDT union and a supporter of Macron, to oversee the negotiations. Notat promised to seek the broadest possible consensus and to refrain from expressing its own positions.
The talks also come after the government’s promise to provide bonuses to health workers has not been met.
Véran said he wanted to raise wages in hospitals and retirement homes to “at least the European average”. Unions fear, however, that the wage increase will only apply to nurses.
The government has also put hours of work on the table, saying it wants to remove the “straitjacket that keeps those who want to work more from doing it.”
Since 2002, French health personnel have been officially limited to a regular 35-hour work week, a rule that unions are keen to protect. They say that working hours are already much longer in practice and that the lack of staff prevents health workers from taking their compulsory paid leave to compensate for overtime.
It was noted that 30% of the positions in French hospitals are not staffed.
“Thirty percent of new nursing graduates are leaving within five years,” said Thierry Amouroux, spokesperson for SNPI. The unions accuse working conditions but also an inadequate management of human resources.
Staff shortages are leading to bed closures. They also force hospitals to hire temporary workers, who are paid better than their salaried counterparts.
Véran said he wanted the hospital’s redesign plan to be included in the next social security budget in September. The unions have already questioned this schedule.
Unions and health care groups are planning national protests on June 16.